From his lofty cosmic-view in John 1:1-5, the Apostle John brings his Christology down to earth, that the eternal Word, very-God of very-God, the Creator and Sustainer of all there is, took upon Himself not only our human-flesh, but our very humanity. He became one of us. He is, at the same time, BOTH God and Man, and while each nature remains distinct from the other, they are perfectly-united in one Person, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ humanity did not reduce His deity, nor did His deity reduce His humanity. He was 100% God and 100% Man.
The Word Made Flesh
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-18)
Up to this point, we know that the Word was with God and that the Word was God; the “Word-God” We have also seen John refer to this Word-God as “He”. Now, for the first time, John identifies “him” as the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yes, for it was none other than Jesus who became flesh and made His dwelling among us at the incarnation, it is of Jesus that the Hebrews author asserts, “and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2) which is parallel to John 1:3; there can be no doubt about whom it is that John is referring to here. It is Jesus who is the Son, having come to us from the Father.
Now that we are certain of just who John has been talking about, we can look at the attributes John mentions about Him, He was full of “grace and truth.” Notice the balance between those two; how many of us maintain that kind of balance between grace and truth when we are interacting with others? Some of us have a great deal of grace, so much so in fact, that we can overlook almost anything; we might even make the truth hard to find. Others are so strong on truth that we find ourselves pointing fingers at those around us, seldom displaying love or compassion or understanding.
The core of the Apostle John’s Christology is that Jesus Christ is both the Eternal Word, who he affirms as being our Creator, and a man, displaying all the hallmarks of being human. No one was closer to Jesus than John. John had spent over three years with Jesus. They were cousins, and Mary lived with John and his family after the crucifixion. While none of the stories of Jesus’ childhood made it into the Gospels, nobody knew more about Him, in His humanity, than His mother, Mary. John will go on to defend Jesus’ humanity against the heresies that were already raising their ugly-heads in the church by the time he wrote his first Epistle, 1st John. Notice his wording in 1st John 1:1-3:
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Heard”, “seen”, “touched”, the three pillars of evidence which would have been decisive in a Court of Law. The Old Testament required that there be three witness in order to convict a person of murder. If John were testifying today of the humanity of Jesus, he would bring pictures, audio-recordings, and even video taken during His earthly ministry.
What is the significance of the Word becoming flesh?
What does it mean by “dwelt among us“? Why is this important?
How did Jesus reveal God’s glory?
Did grace exist before the Incarnation? Did truth exist before the Incarnation?
How could John the Baptist say “He existed before me” when he was older than Jesus?
How did Jesus model grace? How can we model grace?
What does “only begotten” mean?
“Only begotten” is one of the great mysteries in the Bible, because it would imply, to us, that the Word had a beginning, however He could not have been Eternal if He had a beginning. It is our language and word-usage which trips us up, because, while the Old Testament is chock-full on genealogies, and Matthew’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ human genealogy, that cannot be the sense of how “begotten” is used in this passage. It would make more sense to us if “only begotten” had been rendered “unique“, because Jesus IS “unique“. Nobody before or since has had His “uniqueness“.
How did Jesus reveal God in His person and work?
How could John the Baptist say “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’”?
Let’s not forget that John the Baptist was of the priestly-line of Aaron, so he was very-well versed in the Old Testament, and particularly in the prophesies concerning the coming Messiah. We see that in John 1:23, where he said “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (from Isaiah 40:3) God had also revealed to him that he was the “prophet who was to come”, the forerunner of the Messiah, as revealed in Malachi 4:5-6.
John’s text continues as he mentions that John the Baptist testified concerning Jesus in verse 15, and then in 16-18 gives his own testimony about Him.
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:16-18)
John’s first statement is about the abundance of grace that we have received through relationship with Christ. Then, John expands on his statement, pointing out that while the Law was “given” grace and truth “came.” I think that’s worthy of a little thought, for as John has structured this, the Law is a rather top-down thing. The Law was handed down by God to Moses, and then from Moses to the people; the people could take it or leave it. They took it, and then for the most part, they left it; there was no relationship with Law, for Law just is. The result was that that very Law became their condemnation, not their salvation.
The author then contrasts Law and Grace by contrasting its authors. Moses was the great law-giver, but keeping the law never brought-about a righteous life. We have all experienced religious-legalism, and the Scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law had raised religious-legalism to a fine art. The problem was that even if a person kept 99% of the law perfectly, they were still condemned by that 1% they didn’t get quite right. Another problem was that the law only exacted penalties for failure to keep it but it didn’t have any rewards for compliance. A person may have a perfect driving-record for twenty years, but when they finally get a speeding-ticket, their otherwise-perfect driving-record doesn’t diminish the penalties for that ticket. Even though my only speeding-ticket was over thirty years ago, that ticket, and that I paid it, is still on record somewhere in Illinois. I would never get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” because I don’t have a perfect driving-record.
That is where Grace comes in. God gives us what we don’t deserve, a right-relationship with Him, rather than what we DO deserve, eternal-punishment. Christ has the perfect record we could never attain, and through His perfect life, shed-blood and finished-work, God gives us what He earned for us. Grace goes far-beyond just keeping us out of Hell. Grace also gives us a place in God’s eternal kingdom, with all the rewards that go with that blessed state. I would get inducted into the “Safe-drive Hall of Fame” based on His perfect-record, not kept out based on my flawed-record.
And then, grace and truth came to them…
Grace and truth came to them in a person; they could talk and laugh and cry and walk together; there is relationship with grace and truth, for grace and truth become a part of who we are as human beings; there is no fear in grace and truth.
In the remainder of this text, John reveals to us that through Jesus, God can be known to Man, for Jesus is Himself God. Through Jesus, therefore, we can have relationship with God, the Creator of everything: Grace and Truth.
Would you like to know God?
Get to know Jesus. Would you like to know Jesus?
Get to know the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us“.
You may wonder why I am relentless in my emphasis on Jesus’ humanity, which wasn’t doubted during His sojourn on earth. If fact, it wasn’t His humanity that was challenged, it was His claim to deity. He was crucified because He, obviously a man, claimed to be God. It wasn’t until after His ascension that the first challenges of His humanity came along. Greek Docetic and Gnostic philosophy, which demeaned the body and emphasized the spirit or soul, began to infiltrate the church. Debunking that heresy was the purpose of the opening verses of 1st John, which we looked at earlier. Even the church today is infested with “Docetism-lite”.
Why does it matter?
The penalty for rebellion against God was death (Genesis 2:17), so while Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God didn’t bring immediate physical-death, it DID bring spiritual-death, and physical-death would become a part of the human-experience. The only atonement for sin was a blood-sacrifice, death, so it took a perfect human-being’s death to atone for the sins of His people. It took a perfect “seed of the woman” to “crush the serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15). That perfect “seed of the woman” was Jesus.
That is why it matters that Jesus is fully-human, and why I have written and taught about it so much. His humanity is the basis for our salvation.
Beloved, this is really too simple for us to miss! Out of all of the knowledge that has come to humanity over the ages, this is all we need to know to receive forgiveness and eternal life; grab onto it and hold on tight, never let it go…
Sola Deo Gloria!